Kansas City, Mo. The Los Angeles bullpen had no room for error the final 3 1/3 innings Sunday. The Angels also have no margin for error in the final 15 games of the season if they hope to make the playoffs.
Mark Trumbo hit a three-run homer and Dan Haren pitched effectively into the sixth inning as the Angels beat the Kansas City Royals 4-3 on Sunday.
After Haren departed, the Royals managed just one hit off Angels relievers Nick Maronde, Garrett Richards, Scott Downs, Jordan Walden and Kevin Jespen.
“Our bullpen came in and just got out after out in a game where they’ve got some guys that can drive the ball on their side where one mistake can tie the game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “These guys are pitching with their backs against the wall and did a great job.”
The Angels are third in the AL wild-card standings, where the top two qualify — two games behind Oakland and Baltimore.
“We’re in a situation where we have to pay attention to the standings,” Scioscia said. “Everything is not totally in our control, but if we keep winning you keep pressure on the teams.
“Forget winning series. We’re talking about winning every pitch. That’s where we are. The only thing we control is how we play. We need to bring it for the last 15 games. It’s getting to the point of the season, where we’re going to have to get some help. Cause if every team wins out and we win out, we’re on the outside looking in.”
Trumbo, who had hit just .177 with 62 strikeouts in his previous 37 games to drop his average from .306 to .268, homered off Will Smith (5-8) in the second inning.
Haren (11-11) improved to 3-1 in his past four starts, holding the Royals to three runs, two earned, and five hits, while walking one and striking out five. He also moved to 4-0 in five career starts at Kansas City.
“The amount of games we can lose is very limited, so every loss hurts,” Haren said. “It’s not that we’re not trying to catch Texas. For us rather than scoreboard watch, our games are so important. We just can’t lose that many games. Every game is so magnified right now.”
Torii Hunter, who has 17 RBIs in his past 18 games, singled home Erick Aybar, who had doubled, in the first inning.
After closer Ernesto Frieri gave up two home runs in the ninth Saturday to blow a save and take the loss and throwing 30 pitches in a game Friday, Jespen was summoned in the ninth and picked up his second save in four chances. Jespen has held opponents to one earned run in 11 2-3 innings in his last 12 outings.
The Angels got a major scare in the fourth inning when outfielders Mike Trout and Hunter collided while chasing Billy Butler’s double to right-center. Scioscia and the trainer came out, but both remained in the game. Butler wound up scoring on Howie Kendrick’s throwing error after Jeff Francoeur’s infield single, trimming the Angels’ lead to 4-3.
Tony Abreu led off the Kansas City third with his first home run in nearly two years. Abreu’s previous home run was Sept. 26, 2010, while with Arizona against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Salvador Perez, who had the walk-off homer Saturday, doubled to lead off the second, advanced to third on Mike Moustakas’ ground out and scored on Jeff Francoeur’s ground out for the Royals’ first run.
Smith gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings.
“It didn’t start out the way I wanted to,” Smith said. “Trumbo’s homer was a two-seamer right down the middle. He’s a good hitter. He did what he’s supposed to do with it.
“After the home run I started to dial it up. I need to do it in the first inning, not the third inning after giving up four runs.”
Notes: DH Albert Pujols was not in the original Angels lineup after his wife gave birth to a daughter, Esther Grace, at 3:30 a.m. Sunday at a Kansas City hospital. Pujols, who went to high school and junior college in the Kansas City area, arrived at Kauffman Stadium and told Scioscia he was “ready to DH.” ... RHP Ervin Santana, who was struck by a line drive in the right forearm on Wednesday against Oakland, will likely start Friday against Chicago, giving him eight days between starts. ... RHP Jake Odorizzi, the Royals’ top pitching prospect, was promoted from Triple-A Omaha, which was eliminated Saturday by Reno in the Pacific Coast League championship series. He was 11-3 with a 2.93 ERA with Omaha. The Royals also called up four others from Omaha: C Adam Moore, IF Irving Falu, LHP Tommy Hottovy and RHP Nate Adcock. ... Both teams are off Monday. The Angels open a homestand Tuesday against AL West-division leading Texas.